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Keep groundhogs from hogging the garden

People love to see Punxsutawney Phil check for his shadow on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, but they don't appreciate his kinfolk coming for lunch in their garden.

As groundhogs or woodchucks emerge from hibernation in the spring, they're hungry and may head straight for the lawn or newly planted vegetable patches. Since spring is also their breeding season, they will expand burrows to raise their young, suddenly popping up in unexpected places.

"But with the right tools and a little tolerance, people can easily discourage unwanted groundhog activity in their yards and peacefully co-exist with them," said Laura Simon, field director of urban wildlife programs for The Humane Society of the United States.

Simon offers three ways to keep groundhogs from "hogging their way" into a garden:

Scare Them: To discourage frequent visits to your garden, place objects in the area that will reflect sunlight and continually move in the breeze such as bunched pieces of Mylar tape or tethered Mylar party balloons. "Animal scaring” balloons with faces or big eyes work very well, Simon said.

Exclude Them: Since groundhogs do not like to climb unstable fences, installing a simple three to foor foot-high garden mesh fence keeps groundhogs out. "When installing, make an “L” shape that extends the mesh outward parallel to the ground 12 inches, and pin this portion securely to the ground with landscaping staples," suggested Simon. "This will discourage them from digging under the fence. Make sure the top portion of the mesh is not taut when securing it to fence posts so that it wobbles when challenged, preventing the woodchucks from climbing over it."

Displace Them: If groundhogs have already moved in, they can be permanently persuaded to stay away by disrupting the burrows in which they live. Simon urges gardeners to use humane methods and to wait until the young are grown and gone. The following video shows some "gentle persuasion" techniques to move woodchucks or groundhogs out of the garden:

 

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